Sunday, November 2, 2008

Witch is a 4-letter word

My last post was so sugary sweet ( make someone happy this Divali), that you probably had to wash your mouth with salt and vinegar to get rid of the taste. This post is an attempt to show you the witch as she really is. Read on...

Frankly, my attempts at social work are limited to the occasional visit to a home for the aged. And by visit, I mean just that. Offer some money, some food, and smile a lot. That’s it. I am paranoid about any sort of dirt or unpleasant smells, so when I go there I do my best to avoid physical contact with anybody. I know that’s bad and there are hundreds of people out there who do it without a thought, but I cannot. The caretakers try to keep the old people clean but it’s a difficult task with the lot of them peeing and doing worse things all around. Well, this time when I went around, Asha Patil the Matron was having none of my airs.

As I walk in, she immediately asks, “Can you help in serving the food?”
Well that’s easy. I breeze through planting thalis in front of the old people. She then goes up to an old man, lying on a pallet on the floor. This man, Choudhary has a body only up to the knees and no fingers to speak of. He has to be literally propped against the wall like a broken doll. Moreover, despite the odd looking bottle by his bedside, Choudhary wets his bed so the odors are somewhat strong.

Asha Patil stands by him, looks me in the eye and says, “He has to be fed. Will you do it?”
I think “Oh shit!”
Apparently the thought shows on my face because both she and the old man speak simultaneously.
Harridan Patil with a curled lip. ”Oh, that’s okay if you can’t manage it.”
And the old chap stammering, “No need-no-I can do it.”
So of course, I have to say,” Of course I’ll feed him.”
I sit on the floor very gingerly. The smell makes me want to puke. How do the caretakers bear it?

Unfortunately roti and potato sabji cannot be fed with a spoon. I break off a piece of roti, take some vegetable, and without looking at the poor chap, drop it in his maw, trying not to touch the lips. Unsuccessfully. The sensation of feeling a smelly, old man’s drooling lips closing on your fingers is pretty bad. The only people I have fed in my life are my girls and this is definitely a far cry from your kids’ tiny mouths licking at your fingertips. I feed the next few morsels quickly, trying not to look or hear the toothless mouth chomping and leaking food. Choudhary chokes on the speed of the feed and I panic. The Harridan is going to skin me if the guy dies. I desperately pat his back, dripping water in to his mouth from a soiled glass. To take my mind off that drooling mouth I talk.

Choudhary tells me between bites, that he had a responsible job as a Section Officer in the State Government Press, that he had a wife, a son. They lived quite happily in Akola. Even after he began suffering from diabetes and the gangrene took off his legs, he remained very active, traveling all over India to participate in discus and javelin throwing competitions, accompanied either by his son or his wife. “I have a whole box of medals”, he tells me proudly.
“How did you get around?” I ask.
“Oh I have my vehicle,” he says with the air of a man talking of his Ferrari. (The vehicle is a board fitted with wheels on which he mounts and wheels himself about.)
Then some years ago, his only son either jumped or fell into the canal and drowned. Six months later, his wife died of grief. His relatives refused to take him in. With no one to care for him, he now lives at the Home.
As we chat the meal is done , and some how in that time, his legless, handless body, his smells, his stained clothes, and soiled mattress fall away and he changes from the "creature" I had seen him as, into a person; someone who dreamed and loved, who laughed and wept, and who can tell his story, without tears, without asking for sympathy, and even sometimes with a smile. I wipe his mouth without a qualm. Harridan Patil would be proud of me. I am never going to get used to the smells, ( and why should I be ashamed of that?) but I do think I could manage the feeding bit again.

Lesson learned: What are the makings of a witch? Just flesh and bones in fancy clothes, posing on an old broomstick.

The Witch Endorses: The Senior Citizens Home- Shivganga Vriddhashram. Telephone # 02026822326.

One of my students who is not a law graduate and is studying project management wants to know whether she can get into legal project management if she also acquires a diploma in company law. Now this is a poser for me. Is a one-year diploma in company law sufficient for someone who will probably be taking a call on which documents are privileged, which document is a patent and which could lead to potential litigation or a good defence strategy? I think not. On the other hand, quite a few LPOs are happy to employ 2nd and 3rd year law students to do the routine, boring, indexing work. How much of legal knowledge is involved here is anyone's guess. So again, why shouldn't a post-graduate management degree holder with more than a basic knowledge of law not handle such projects? And experience should surely make for proficiency in the more complex legal work. (Although not of course, legal research or legal documents. That can be done by me, only me, and none but me.)

Anyway if people other than legal professionals start entering the legal outsourcing field, the competition is going to get tougher, you guys. So, spend the slack hours acquiring some specialisations. I hear you getting offers which may not be to your taste and that I can well understand . We were on some really interesting projects weren't we, when we parted ways? However, do follow up on whatever you have until something better comes along, which the witch forecasts, it will. If nothing else, you will at least have toted up experience points.


Thank you all , lawyers, students and fellow professors, staff, and readers for your Divali wishes . They did much to remedy a week that started out bad, with me out of sorts with people I care for. And a special thank you to the Geek who actually took the trouble to wish me a bright Divali and a "glowing spirit"- I like. Don't let my ungraciousness put you off further attempts.

See you soon,


Echoes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Echoes said...

Well.. Madame 'Which'.... This post goes on to show that this 'witch' is only too human! a great post!!

Amit said...

I do understand your journey though the change you experienced at the home. I started doing this in 2002 to observe the death anniversary of my father. As of now I do it more frequently that just once a year. Every time the experience still overwhelms me.